The Fractal Tide, by Steve Roberts

Steve Roberts
–for William Harold

Thursday arrival:
Not the ocean, vast as it is
Seamless, but the populated pier like some fool’s penis
Overextended. As I scan from my fourteenth-floor balcony,
My eyes a seagull’s meet.

Friday night:
A halo from the luminous pier
Obscures the stars. Crescent moon & sword embroidered
On what look like tasseled red buckets
Inverted above stogie-stuffed
Grins, a parade of waving, scooter-
Weaving Shriners beeps by. Inside the painted-black school
Bus, its flank sawed open-wide, a duet of stomping Shriners sweats
Hard as they fiddle. Feeling a little high pressure
Lately, I’m okay with my barometer
Notching a degree lower, saunter
Back toward the wind-scuttled beach
Where the pier’s lights gleam like gold teeth.

Saturday afternoon:
Though from beyond the breakers
A surfer’s voice carried, the surf shop clerk says
Every board sold out before the hurricane.
Waves of walkers, runners, swimmers and sunbathers,
But no dunes, the sea gull pees in mid-
Flight. Skinny-lined figure-eight my big toe etched in
Sand and loopy-as-washed-up-seaweed cursive just footnotes
To the muse’s surround-sound hone
Of business: the swarm of bikinis hipping back
And forth; sunken clams valving; a kite’s dragon-tailed wag
Below the sun before its humming dive
Down to earth; the all-but-transparent ghost crab’s side-
Stepped dance to-and-from its shadowed hole;
An air force of arrow-plummeted pelicans; paired-off teens holding
Hands; the black-&-white-spiral-striped, centuries-
Old lighthouse leaned into its vigilance.

Sunday morning:
An airplane! a boy raising his bucket directs his sister
Kneeled on her hands and knees digging
Into the wet sand’s cloud-reflecting mirror. Opposite
The direction yesterday, a pod of dolphins
Arches. A woman darts after her plastic-rake-dragging toddler
Yelling, Angeles! Angeles! An airplane, no — a helicopter —
Shudders closer as the resurfaced pelican’s
Harpoon beak whisks away another fish, helpless.

Sunday evening:
Two boys throwing football, one’s feet positioned
In the strand of sand, granular and forgiving
As it is the creamy color of milk, and the other
Leaping arms outstretched above the rough,
Chest-high surf hoping for a clothes-line tackle by
A breaking wave as he hauls in a pass perfectly-timed,
Remind me of the throws my little brother, twenty-year-old back-seat passenger
During the pine-splintered, earth-shuddered, aerial-acrobatic
Stunt of some forty-year-old failed-fool pilot
Decades of windy Labor Days ago, and I
Used to complete, our sets of yearning wings too young
To hold against the sunset’s darkening blood.

Author’s Comment: “The Fractal Tide” was a difficult and challenging poem to write, and if I have done it well it would both surprise and please me. I had traveled to Virginia Beach from the mountains and was writing lines as they would come. The beach was a place where my family went for vacations. When I got to where I was observing and writing about the boys throwing football, something about the past kicked off, and the poem became altogether something different and personal. Rhyming often helps me to organize a lot of disparate information, and I felt the subject deserved rhymed couplets in a formal, elegiac sense.

Bio: Steve Roberts is the author of two full-length collections of poems, Another Word for Home and A Space Inside A Space and a chapbook, Every September . . . . He is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Regional Artist Project Grant, and was a presenter on the “Art and Healing” panel at the 2009 North Carolina National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NC -NAMI) Conference: Creative Hearts, Healing Minds. His work received an Academy of American Poets Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He works in the film industry in Wilmington.

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